Got Back Pain? Check Your Posture

Your job shouldn’t be a pain in the neck—at least not literally. Yet two out of three office workers have felt physical pain in the last six months, according to a new survey released by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

The survey compiled responses from about 1,000 office workers ages 18 and older across the U.S. The results also showed that in the past 30 days, 62 percent of respondents had felt pain in their lower backs, 53 percent in their necks, 38 percent in their shoulders, 33 percent in their wrists, and 31 percent in their upper backs.

So what’s causing all of that discomfort? Nearly a quarter of the surveyed workers think their physical pain is just a regular part of working an office job.  People do spend a whole lot of time slouching over a keyboard, causing muscle fatigue from postural stress, says Lisa DeStefano, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a spokesperson for the AOA. Here’s the thing, though: You job shouldn’t be causing you physical pain.

If you’re on your bum for a large portion of the workday, it’s important to give your body a break by standing up, says DeStefano. When you do, you’ll work different muscles and get your blood moving up and out of your lower extremities. DeStefano suggests pausing to stretch (or chat with a coworker) every 30 minutes to an hour.

And when you are sitting, make sure to park yourself at your desk the proper way:


photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Yoga Workouts for Perfect Posture
Workout Routine: Improve Your Posture
Lean and Tall in Minutes

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The Easy Solution for Lower Back Pain

Pain in the back can be a real pain in the you-know-what. If you’re looking for relief, take note: Walking is just as effective at easing lower back pain as muscle-strengthening exercises, according to a new study out of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

For the study, researchers put 52 patients with chronic lower back pain on an exercise regime—half on a strength-training program, and the other half on a walking program. None of the participants had been physically active on a regular basis before beginning their respective routines. Both groups trained two to three times per week. The walkers began with 20-minute treadmill sessions (a five-minute warm-up, followed by 10 minutes of faster walking, capped off with a five-minute cool-down) and eventually built up to 40-minute sessions. At the end of six weeks, both groups showed a significant reduction in back pain, as well as improvements in walking speed and back and abdominal muscle endurance.

While walking doesn’t target specific muscles the way strengthening moves do, it still helps build muscle tissue, says Nick Shamie, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the UCLA Spine Center and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, who was not involved in the study. That may be why participants in both test groups saw similar results. Plus, Shamie says, it’s one of the safest forms of aerobic activity, but it still gets your blood flowing and endorphins pumping. “I think walking is a great form of exercise, and it’s underrated,” he says.

Up to 80 percent of Americans will have back pain at some point in their lives. If you’re suffering, see your doctor to find out if walking could help alleviate the problem.

In the meantime, check out these other backache remedies:

Yoga workouts to relieve back pain

Back pain exercises to stabilize the sacrum

The yoga workout that soothed Adam Levine’s back

More tips for staying back-pain-free

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Pain Management: How to Choose a Painkiller
Pain Relief: The Science Behind Pain
Medicine Cabinet Myths

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